When I agreed to chaperone my daughter's field trip, I hadn't quite thought it through. My initial reaction when asked was, "Ooh! Field trip!" But that was me channeling my inner first grader, not the adult me who fears chaos and dirt and is therefore less than an ideal pick for this type of situation. And I assumed that the field trip would be to one of two destinations, the zoo or the aquarium. I made this assumption because those were the places I most wanted to visit.
I didn't ask for too many details, even when I heard the word "farm" being thrown about. Because a farm is just a less exotic zoo with no concession stand, right? And maybe I'd get to pet a bunny or a baby pig.
A few days before the trip, I fell ill. I'll omit the gory details, save for the fact that I was on a steady diet of Dayquil, Nyquil and Imodium. "You should cancel," my husband said. I ignored him because as craptacular as I felt, there was no way I would let down the first grade teacher. If the woman ever needs a kidney, I'll be first in line.
I arrived at the school, put on my happy face and suppressed panic as I boarded the bus. It was a crush of children and snot and noise. Stifling hot.
I looked at all the tiny faces and pictured their families and thought of every school bus tragedy I'd heard of. Heads brushed up against me and I surveyed them for lice. Children tattled and taunted and I managed to croak "Sit on your bum, please," while inside I screamed "Hands to yourself and sit the f*ck down!" I looked to my daughter, who looked up at me with adoration and joy. She was having the time of her life.
After thirty excruciating minutes, we pulled into the Kuna High School. Idaho offers a variety of interesting and worthwhile destinations. I had never thought of the Kuna High School as one of them.
"I thought we were going to a farm," I said to another parent, a burly dad with daggers tattooed on his forearm.
"We're touring the Kuna Ag Program," he corrected me. "It's one of the best in the country. They win all kinds of awards. You haven't heard about their Ag Program?"
The term Ag would occur many times. And at each instance, I lamented the abbreviation. Agriculture includes culture. Why on earth would you omit culture? But in the Ag industry, if you insist on saying Agriculture too often, you come across as snooty. I was determined to keep my snootiness in shadow.
The prospect of exiting the bus brought relief. But when we pulled into the parking lot, I saw a dozen other school buses, cars parked on curbs and masses of children everywhere. I felt the same level of panic as I do at the idea of going to K-Mart at midnight on Black Friday, which I think is sick and stupid and why on earth would anyone do such a thing?
Teenagers greeted us. The tour guides for the Ag Program. The Future Farmers of America. Ours was a 15-year-old who admitted, "I'm just doing this to cut class. Now who wants to watch a video about milk?" It was a 1980's production with girls in floral vests. A farmer in one scene donned a mustache and became the milkman in the next scene, then added glasses and a lab coat to become Louis Pasteur.
We shuffled through exhibits on beef and wool and trees and trout, trying not to lose children in the process. Our guide asked the first graders where pork comes from. Hands shot in the air and hopeful 6-year-olds guessed "Steak?" and "Fish?"
We saw fowl in wire cages. Ducks, chicks and chickens. And then there were bunnies. Our guide tried and failed to remove three different rabbits for me to pet. I mean, for the children to pet. It was not to be.
We saw tractors. "This one is a..." our guide trailed off. "I don't really know. It might be a combine." The dagger-decorated dad took over and explained which tractor was which. The wind picked up and I looked at my watch. A hay ride took us around the school and the guide made us sing songs, which did not endear her to me.
We saw horses and miniature horses and goats and sheep. There were baby pigs which the children petted. I tried to elbow the children out of the way so that I could have a turn. This, too, was not to be.
Steers and cows and a llama. My fingers froze, my stomach churned. How long since my last Imodium? My nose ran until I was as snotty as my charges. I took seconds of hand sanitizer, looked at my watch. Mercifully, it was time to go. The bus ride I'd detested now felt like a bit of heaven. I kept the kids in line, again without using the f-word and felt deservedly triumphant. Back at the elementary school I said goodbye to my daughter and suppressed the urge to run to my car. My daughter couldn't stop hopping. "This is the best day ever, Mama," she proclaimed. "Thank you so much for coming on my field trip."
I kissed her on the cheek and said, honestly, "Any time."
This blog first appeared at AKTurner.com.